One of my favorite Monty Python sketches had a "man on the street" interview where they asked a buffoonish guy how to fix the nation's fiscal crisis. His classic answer was... after much thought...
"We should tax all foreigners living abroad"
Well I am down here in Florida, and since my interests are so odd, I am reading an article from The Miami Herald titled "All options are on table in property tax crisis".
Essentially, Florida has followed the Monty Python advice to date; they don't have an income tax, they do have a sales tax, and their property tax is designed to give year-round residents a break and stick it to part-time second home owners and businesses. I don't fully understand how it is legal to charge more to second home owners and part-time residents; isn't that impacting interstate commerce? Regardless, it is common practice here. Logically, you'd think that second home owners would pay LESS taxes because they use less state and local services - their kids don't go to public schools here (probably because they went to good private or public schools in another state in the Midwest or the East or they couldn't afford the second home in the first place) and they aren't on welfare (obviously) and don't use much in the way of public services like fire and police.
There is a state act called "Save Our Homes" which limits the growth in property taxes to 3% / year starting in 1995 for residents that receive the exemption; per the article:
"In 1995... the measure removed $3.5 billion from the property tax rolls. Today, it has kept a quarter of the state's $1.6 trillion total taxable property value off the rolls."
Of course, this law has created a group of individuals that receive the exemption (until they move) that is powerfully focused on keeping this law in place, and since they are generally old without much to do, you can bet that they will vote. This is exactly the kind of constituency that you don't want to create, a single issue voting bloc, but that is what they have here in Florida.
Even though this unfair and inequitable tax policy is killing them in Florida, someone is proposing EXPANDING the program. They want to amend the program so that if you have the exemption and you move, you retain the exemption going forward.
Let's think about the logic of this. There was a micron of logic in the original program because elderly people on fixed income get creamed by rising property taxes, so limiting growth to 3% / year gives them a chance to stay in their homes. There would have been a lot of other ways to fix this that would have been better, such as 1) limiting the growth in state spending to 3% / year, which would have accomplished that goal for everyone 2) a means-tested exemption for elderly people who qualify. Unfortunately, this broad based program is obviously unfair and now it goes WAY off the rails of logic with the idea that just because you were a resident and owned a home in 1995 when the program started, now you would get a portable right to limit YOUR property tax growth which essentially shifts it onto your neighbor who just arrived here because he wasn't a resident in 1995.
Another reason this is so unfair is because much of the dynamic nature of the state of Florida is driven by new arrivals; they are the ones renovating the hotels, bringing in new businesses, and injecting economic life into the state. The retirees are not the ones that you want to attract from a business perspective; at best they are cheap consumers and they burden the state with expensive services; plus, your property tax rates as a business owner AND as a new resident skyrocket to subsidize them.
This will be interesting to see play out. At least in Illinois our system is equivalently corrupt and unfair to all of our residents, although we do overload our property tax burden on business owners. It would be interesting to ask a rich retiree in Florida to defend the ethics of this program; I want state government costs to increase, but I don't want to pay for them. A sad voting bloc, indeed.